Dinner at the Oregon Grille, Hunt Valley, Maryland
Anyone visiting northern Baltimore County during soft-shell crab season (usually May - August) won't find any better than Mark Henry's. His lobster corncake isn't bad either, and of course, the finest aged beef south of New York can be found at this restaurant.
The wines offered no surprises. The three Chardonnays were totally different in style. The 1999 Kongsgaard had the most terroir, with extraordinary minerality, the 1999 Peter Michael Point Rouge the most opulent, exotic, and filled with tropical fruit, and the 1999 Martinelli Charles Ranch leesy and smoky with gobs of fruit and hazelnut notes.
As for the reds, the 1998 Quinault l'Enclos remains young, and may be starting to close down. The color is a dense purple, and the wine shows pure black raspberry and cassis fruit intermixed with subtle wood and mineral notions. It is a stylish, provocative effort with 10-15 years of aging ahead of it. The 1997 Pahlmeyer Merlot came across as less complex, fatter, and more simple, but gorgeously lush and opulent with loads of fudge and chocolatey fruit. Surprisingly, it is fully mature. The 1997 Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select is prodigious stuff. This was a perfect performance by a magnificent wine that is young yet so concentrated and long. It will last for at least two decades. The 1993 Harlan Estate (double-decanted four hours in advance) is just beginning to shrug off its tannin. It still tastes like a very young wine. The color remains a dense purple, and the wine exhibits notes of smoke, cedar, licorice, black currants, and tobacco. There has been more aromatic development than previously noticed, but in the mouth, it is large-scaled and Bordeaux-like in its size and tannin profile. Lastly, the luxurious, lavish, over the top fortified Old Muscat from Ralph Fowler was a treat. It's like drinking maple syrup infused with roasted nuts.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...